About me

I wandered into the phonics/reading debate almost by accident, but I’m not completely new to thinking about words. Just to set my Witterings in context, this is my background:

I did a BA and an MPhil in English Language and Literature, followed by a DPhil (same as a PhD but Oxford), within the English Faculty but focussing on the early development of authors’ and publishers rights in printed books in London during the first half of the sixteenth century. I partly funded my DPhil by working as a researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary, took a job there running some of its research projects at the end of the DPhil, and worked there full time from 2001-9. In total, though, I have worked for the OED for close to 20 years (I now do occasional freelance research/consultancy for them), most of that time being spent working on material between about 1350-1650.

For family reasons I don’t currently have a proper job, hence the spare time to Witter.

I spend some of my time volunteering in our local primary school, listening to Foundation and Year 1 children read, on a one-to-one basis. It became clear to me very quickly that there are some surprisingly interesting and useful parallels between what learner readers do and what I do when I’m reading a particularly tricky, damaged early-modern book: understanding grapheme-phoneme correspondences, but also grammar and context (even, rarely, pictures) are part of working out what a word is, in both cases.

My main focus in this blog is to understand the system effects of introducing SSP as mandatory in English state schools. Where does it help, where does it hinder, and where does it make no real long-term difference at all?

I hope that my questions, coming from a slightly different direction from that of teachers, will add an extra (and useful!) perspective to the debate.


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